In my forthcoming book, THE GLOBAL GOSPEL: Achieving Missional Impact in Our Multicultural World, I devote quite a few pages to the premise that honor-status reversal is a motif of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation.
Honor-status reversal as a horizontal/social orientation in the second half of Ephesians 2
In my previous post about honor-status reversal, we explored what this motif means in Eph 2:1–10. We found that the dynamic of honor-status reversal in verses 1–7 refers to the personal and vertical—our relationship as believers with God the Father. In Eph 2:11–22, however, the dynamic is social and horizontal. Let’s take a look.
Verses 11–12 refer to the shameful status of unsaved peoples in relation to God’s people:
- Unclean, defiled and without hope of being made clean: “Gentiles in the flesh, called ‘the uncircumcision’ by what is called the circumcision” (2:11)
- No access to the honor and benefaction of the Messiah King: “separated from Christ” (2:12)
- As aliens in relation to God’s great people Israel: “alienated from the commonwealth of Israel” (2:12)
- Unaware of any relational destiny in God: “strangers to the covenants of promise” (2:12)
- Living in despair without God’s presence: “having no hope and without God in the world” (2:12)
- Disconnected from the most honorable relationship: “far off” … “strangers and aliens” (2:12)
- On the other side of “the dividing wall of hostility” (2:12)
Verses 13–22 refer to the reversal of our honor-status in relation to God’s people:
- From far away in shame to very near through the honor of Christ’s blood: “you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ” (2:13)
- Messiah King himself is our new source of honor—dispelling our compulsion for honor competition and hostility: “For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility” (2:14)
- For a completely new kind of kinship group made in peace: “by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace” (2:15)
- The shame of Christ’s body on the cross absorbed humanity’s compulsion for honor competition and hostility—to create a new body among humanity—a community of peace: “and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.” (2:16)
- Both Jew and Gentile (no superiority for being Jewish) were equally in need of the preaching of this grace and peace: “And he came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near.” (2:17)
- The high honor of access to Holy God is now available to all peoples—further dispelling honor competition: “For through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (2:18)
- Shameful state as strange aliens replaced by multi-dimensional honor of citizens, saints, family members: “So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God” (2:19)
- Entering into the honor of God’s ancient story, the crux of which is the Messiah King and Son of God: “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus himself being the cornerstone” (2:20)
- Brothers and sisters in Christ become the new “sacred space”—wherever they are: “in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord.” (2:21)
- In Christ your new community is the dwelling for the most honorable, holy presence of God: “In him you also are being built together into a dwelling place for God by the Spirit.” (2:22)
Let’s recall that the crux of the two dimensions of honor-status reversal is “Salvation by grace through faith”
What is located between these two dramatic expressions of honor-status reversal—between verses 1–7 and 11–22? The often-quoted verses about salvation by grace through faith:
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast (Eph 2:8–9).
This “salvation verse” sits at the intersection of vertical and horizontal dimensions of honor-status reversal. The vertical dimension refers to a person’s relationship with God. The horizontal dimension refers to the Gentiles’ relationship with God’s people. The drama inherent in these dimensions of honor-status reversal—along with the liberation that this brought spiritually, emotionally and socially —is the context for “salvation by grace through faith.”
And the stunning impact on the gospel? Consider…
- If salvation according to the context of Ephesians 2 is more of an honor/shame message than one of guilt/innocence, what does this mean for the way we present the gospel?
- Could it be that being saved by grace—that having our sins forgiven—is actually the means for having our honor-status reversed in relation to God and to God’s people?
- If salvation is both personal and social, how should this affect the way we live the gospel, and the way we share the gospel?
- Could it be that the gospel is just as much about the covering of sin/shame and the gaining of honor—as it is about the forgiveness of sin/guilt and the gaining of righteousness?
- Vast numbers of unreached peoples are motivated more by honor/shame than by innocence/guilt; what does this mean for believers who are trying to share with them the gospel of salvation in Jesus?